Romantics 

​Uncle Dairo was in a pensive mood. He still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she was pregnant. Peju got pregnant on my watch? How could I not have seen the warning signals? The girl chose to humiliate me by getting pregnant, despite my efforts to better her life. So it’s true what people say about an indisposed person – he says ‘thank you’ by way of farting.

Peju was the daughter of his late brother – the young and only one he had. The poor man died of a heart condition after all efforts to help him recover proved abortive. The girl had been in his custody ever since the fateful event. Just like his own children, he made it his responsibility to take care of all her needs, at least as best as he could.

Uncle Dairo and his wife didn’t waste time deciding which school was best for her to attend. Shouldn’t we just fix her up in the same school with her children? That was Mama Tee, Uncle Dairo’s wife during one of their deliberations. The suggestion made sense to Uncle Dairo. For one, while she got the best academic care, she would feel at home there with familiar faces around. 

She was already 19 when she came to live with them and in SSS2 in her previous school. The age was a little ahead of her academic status you would say. Well, that assumption couldn’t be far from the truth. For one, unlike most children, she didn’t get to start school early. Her late father wanted her to grow a little older before living her at the mercy of educators. She got enrolled at preparatory school at the age of four. Even when she began schooling, her academic journey had been a bumpy ride. She had to repeat different classes in between JSS1 and SSS2.

Those were in the past anyway. She got enrolled in Crown Heights Academy – one of the best secondary schools in the Ake metropolis – along with her cousins. Although she was due for SSS3, the school authority had insisted she started from SSS2. Based on her academic performance overtime, we strongly advice she starts from SSS2. We’ll like to monitor her progress a little in order to prepare her for her O-level certificate. That was the voice of the school principal when she was enrolled almost a year ago.    

No sooner had he settle down at her new school than her guardian Uncle Dairo began to get discouraging feedbacks from her teachers. Her written English was below standard, she needed to buckle down on her performances in her science subjects. To crown it all, mathematics was more than problematic. Her first term result was nothing to write home about.

Taking her class teacher’s advice, Uncle Dairo had arranged for extra lessons in key subjects for her at school – Just so the girl could fare better in her studies. When she brought home her second term report sheet for that term, her class teacher’s report read Peju has a lackadaisical attitude to studies. She needs adequate supervision in order to make head way. Mathematics was the crux for the principal as she wrote, Urgent steps needs to be taken on your performance in maths. You can also do better in other subjects next time. Just like other times, she had performed woefully in mathematics. This time around, the result was worse than the last. At least, she managed to score 50% during her first term examination. Second term was a couple of steps backwards as she earned a 38% for her troubles. What else can be done to salvage the situation? he mused. 

The case was different for her cousins. Jude always aced all his subjects. Toun was second to none in her class while Kate had won awards for her school at various debates and competitions. The sharp contrast between the intellectual ability of his children and his nephew became a source of concern for him. What would people say when they get to know the situation of things? He thought. The last time the family head came to check on her, he seemed displeased with the report he got of her performance in school. Although he didn’t spell it out in plain language, one could read from his body language that he blamed Uncle Dairo for the girl’s dismal performance. He feared that things would go out of hand if he didn’t take further action, most especially concerning mathematics. Now that the children were on 2nd term holiday, he needed to look for a way to remedy the bleak situation. He resolved to get a home tutor who would take her in maths. The tutor would come to take her in the evenings – after closing hours and on weekends. 

After a long search, a young man by the name of Mr Smart emerged as the most suitable tutor. Mr Smart was tall, dark and handsome. He had the air of liveliness about him that made it easy for one to connect with him.

 I was told you are good at what you do, Uncle Dairo enquired. 

That’s right, sir, Mr Smart replied confidently.

Good, said Uncle Dairo. I’ll like you to start taking my niece in mathematics starting from Monday. She is a little deficient in that subject

You can depend on me to deliver, Mr Smart assured.

Having concluded the pleasantries, he introduced Mr Smart to Peju. Mr Smart will begin to take you maths lessons at home, he informed her. Ensure you give him maximum cooperation. Rather than looked displeased at the prospect of having another teaching session at home, Peju seemed overly excited on seeing the young man and getting to know he would be his private tutor. I’ll give him maximum support, she enthused. Uncle Dairo took the girl’s excitement as a sign of readiness and seriousness. She seemed ready to learn, he told his wife later that night.

So it happened that Mr Smart began to deliver on his promise. He would come at five – an hour after Peju got back from school. Mr Smart hardly met her guardians at home because both were top business executives. Uncle Dairo was the zonal manager of Fresh Bank – one of the biggest commercial banks in the country. His wife was the CEO of a high-class fashion line- Glitz Culture. The nature of their jobs required that they left home in the early hours of the morning only to return later in the evening. The weekends were all they had and shared with the children. The only elderly figure the children mostly had around was Chioma, their house help for many years. 

Each time Mr Smart came to take her maths lessons, during weekdays, Peju, being the eldest of the children, would fake annoyance at her cousins and send them upstairs (they lived in a duplex). You guys keep disturbing my lesson with your arguments, she would complain. Her cousins would obey, although grudgingly and leave their cousin with Mr Smart in one of the rooms down stairs. Chioma the house help was hardly within as she was always busy with other household matters. Besides, one needs a smart tutor and a quite environment to study and understand a subject like mathematics.

The change Peju’s uncle wanted showed up eventually, although in an unanticipated dimension. On a good day, Peju was a lively and enthusiastic girl. She hardly registered a dull moment in her mental diary. Even when she went about her house chores, she would be seen singing and cracking jokes. All of a sudden, her air of excitement vanished. She would keep to herself – in her room – rather than have fun with the rest of the family, as was her practice. Nowadays, she got easily irritated with every inconsequential and insignificant thing. Mama Tee was first to notice this change in attitude and she intimated her husband about it. She brought up the issue on their way back from a Saturday outing.

Honey, she began.

Yes, dear? Her husband responded in a tone that suggested that he was waiting for the catch.

Haven’t you noticed a change in Peju’s attitude of late

Not exactly, he replied. What are your observations?

Well, she hasn’t been her usual self for a while. Mostly sulking and hardly alive to anything going on in the house. Take for instance, she is not the type to miss out on a social occasion; yet she stubbornly refused to go with us to the wedding despite the urgings by her younger ones. That’s so unlike her.

Uncle Dairo listened patiently to his wife and wondered how/why he had been oblivious to the picture his wife had painted. 

To be honest, he replied at last. I haven’t taken notice of these things. I guess I’ve been a little more preoccupied of recent. But maybe it’s not as bad as you think. You know teenagers of these days can be unpredictable with their attitudes. Perhaps it’s just one of those transitioning moment

Perhaps was her wife’s tentative rejoinder to his response.

Meanwhile, Mr Smart had earlier informed Peju’s uncle of his decision to stop taking the girl in mathematics. You need not pay me this month’s salary since I only took her half way. When uncle Dairo asked him what led to his sudden decision, he said, I need to go look after my father in the village. He’s been ill for a while and has been without proper care. I happen to be his only child…

Heeya! Uncle Dairo sympathised. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, your decision has further proven how responsible you are. Most youths of your generation will simply abandon their aging parents and move on with their lives.  I wish your father speedy recovery. He not only gave him his full month pay but also gave him some money to take care of his father.

This is so generous and kind of you sir. I’m so grateful, Mr Smart said, prostrating himself.

Come on, Uncle Dairo chided. You are deserving of my generosity. I’ve seen the seriousness and consistency with which you handle your task.

That occasion happened to be the last time Uncle Dairo and his family would ever set eyes on Mr Smart. 

Way into the third term, Peju’s case did not get any better. Her performance in mathematics was the least of the trouble now. Actually, her case degenerated from attitudinal issues to physiological symptoms. The hyper active Peju had now become lethargic. She hardly ate half the meal dished to her and when asked what the problem is, she simply says I don’t have appetite. When performing and household task, it takes her ages to accomplish it. Just a couple of days ago, her class teacher had called Uncle Dairo to inform him of his niece’s worrisome attitude. Well, her academics is not even the issue now, she lamented. Her teachers tell me she is neither active in curricular or extra-curricular activities. Often times, she is found either sleeping away in class or being absent minded.   

In a bid to get to the root of the matter, Uncle Dairo called her to his study one fine morning. Having asked if she slept well, he got down to business. I’ve been getting reports from your school about your inactivity. The case is no different on the home front too. Everyone complains you’ve become grumpy and sulky. Is anything the matter? Peju assured her uncle she is perfectly okay. She promised to shake the dullness away and put it together.

Things finally fell apart on a Sunday morning. The family was planning to leave for church, being a thanksgiving service. The household was almost in frenzy as they were already late for service. They all slept in. Peju was in the kitchen, putting away the cutlery she had just washed. She began to feel nauseated and uncomfortable from within. It was as though the meal of rice she had couldn’t find refuge in her stomach and was going to force its way out of her mouth. She suddenly realized she was about to throw up and sped out of the kitchen into the adjoining toilet. She was hardly in the toilet when she began to vomit. 

Mama Tee was making her way into the kitchen just when Peju was making her way out. She noticed the speed at which she ran and followed her immediately. Peju almost vomited her heart in her presence. She quickly alerted her husband who came to the scene to find the girl in the fit. The couple decided to take her to the hospital the moment she got better. It was a good thing there family hospital was a drive away.

On getting to the hospital, they met with the doctor on duty. The young bespectacled man asked them a series of questions regarding any prior symptoms. He later conducted a couple of test on the girl, gave her some drugs to make her feel better in the meantime, and asked the couple to come back with her for the results of the tests on the following Friday. The couple got the news of their lives when they came back for the results. 

Peju was pregnant!

Uncle Dairo’s wall began to crack on the spot. It however came crumbling down when the girl eventually gave up the identity of the soul who got her pregnant. It was Uncle Smart, the mathematics teacher. 

It turned out that all the while Uncle believed Peju and her tutor were busy with mathematics; they were diligently looking into the field of romantics.   
Image credit: Hannah’s Hope

©ayansolaibukun

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